Over the last several years, craft beer has become a booming industry in Northwest Arkansas. It seems like every few months a new microbrewery opens its doors. Not that we’re complaining. Craft beer means fun, jobs, and tourism. And now awards.

The Southeast Tourism Society has announced that the Fayetteville Ale Trail is the recipient of the 2015 Shining Example Award for Best Niche Marketing.

“It’s a huge honor – the Shining Star Awards are very prestigious in the tourism industry,” said Jessica Leonard, Communications Manager of the Fayetteville Visitors Bureau. “I am very proud of the work that went into making the Fayetteville Ale Trail a big enough of a success to earn such a wonderful designation.”
The bureau launched the Fayetteville Ale Trail, a self-guided tour of the region’s breweries, in August of 2013 after an increasing number of visitors began requesting information on the local microbreweries. Since then, the program has been extremely successful and has now expanded to include 9 local craft breweries: West Mountain Brewing Company, Saddlebock Brewery, Apple Blossom Brewing Company, Ozark Beer Company, Columbus House Brewery, Fossil Cove Brewing Company, Bike Rack Brewing Company and Bentonville Brewing Company.

To join the fun, beer enthusiasts can pick up a free Ale Trail passport at any participating brewery or the Fayetteville Visitors Center.  Once a stamp has been collected at each brewery along the trail, the passport can be mailed in or brought to the Fayetteville Visitors Center on the Downtown Square for an Ale Trail bottle opener keychain and decal.

This is the 30th year of STS Shining Example Awards, some of the most respected recognitions in the tourism industry. They applaud various aspects of the industry, including marketing, governmental support of tourism, leadership, new talent and sustainability.Most categories are open to nominations from anyone. Tourism industry veterans independent of STS are the judges.

“Organizations and individuals receiving Shining Examples are being pointed out as achievers of great merit,” said STS President Bill Hardman. “They are coveted awards.”

Founded in 1983, the Southeast Tourism Society is dedicated to promoting and developing tourism in its member states of Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia and West Virginia. Its headquarters are in Atlanta. The membership includes state travel offices, attractions, lodging properties, resorts, convention and visitor bureaus, chambers of commerce, travel media and other travel-related organizations.